This document shows the amendments to the Companion Policy against the relevant portions of the unofficial consolidation of NI 31-103 published on July 15, 2013.
AMENDMENTS TO COMPANION POLICY 31-103CP REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS, EXEMPTIONS AND ONGOING REGISTRANT OBLIGATIONS
13.14 Application of this Division
Investment fund managers are only subject to Division 5 if they also operate under a dealer or adviser registration, in which case the requirements in this Division apply in respect of the activities conducted under their dealer or adviser registration.
Registered firms in Québec must complyIn Québec, a registered firm is deemed to comply with this Division if it complies with sections 168.1.1 to 168.1.3 of the Québec Securities Act, which has providedprovides a substantially similar regime since 2002. for complaint handling.
The guidance in Division 5 of this Companion Policy applies to firms registered in any jurisdiction, including Québec.
However, section 168.1.3 of the Québec Securities Act, includes requirements with respect to dispute resolution or mediation services that are different than those set out in section 13.16 of NI 31-103. In Québec, registrants must inform each complainant, in writing and without delay, that if the complainant is dissatisfied with how the complaint is handled or with the outcome, they may request the registrant to forward a copy of the complaint file to the Autorité des marchés financiers. The registrant must forward a copy of the complaint file to the Autorité des marchés financiers, which will examine the complaint. The Autorité des marchés financiers may act as a mediator if it considers it appropriate to do so and the parties agree.
13.15 Handling complaints
General duty to document and respond to complaints
Section 13.15 requires registered firms to document complaints, and to effectively and fairly respond to them. We are of the view that registered firms should document and respond to all complaints received from a client, a former client or a prospective client who has dealt with the registered firm (complainant).
Firms are reminded that they are required to maintain records which demonstrate compliance with complaint handling requirements under paragraph 11.5(2)(m).
Complaint handling policies
An effective complaint system should deal with all formal and informal complaints or disputes in a timely and fair manner. To achieve the objective of handling complaints fairly, the firm's complaint system should include standards allowing for objective factual investigation and analysis of the matters specific to the complaint.
We take the view that registered firms should take a balanced approach to the gathering of facts that objectively considers the interests of
• the complainant
• the registered representative, and
• the firm
Registered firms should not limit their consideration and handling of complaints to those relating to possible violations of securities legislation.
The firm's complaint handling policy should provide for specific procedures for reporting the complaints to superiors, in order to allow the detection of frequent and repetitive complaints made with respect to the same matter which may, on a cumulative basis, indicate a serious problem. Firms should take appropriate measures to deal with such problems as they arise.
Responding to complaints
Types of complaints
All complaints relating to one of the following matters should be responded to by the firm by providing an initial and substantive response, both in writing and within a reasonable time:
• a trading or advising activity
• a breach of client confidentiality
• theft, fraud, misappropriation or forgery
• an undisclosed or prohibited conflict of interest, or
• personal financial dealings with a client
Firms may determine that a complaint relating to matters other than the matters listed above is nevertheless of a sufficiently serious nature to be responded to in the manner described below. This determination should be made, in all cases, by considering if an investor, acting reasonably, would expect a written response to their complaint.
When complaints are not made in writing
We would not expect that complaints relating to matters other than those listed above, when made verbally and when not otherwise considered serious based on an investor's reasonable expectation, would need to be responded to in writing. However, we do expect that verbal complaints be given as much attention as written complaints. If a complaint is made verbally and is not clearly expressed, the firm may request the complainant to put the complaint in writing and we expect firms to offer reasonable assistance to do so.
Firms are entitled to expect the complainant to put unclear verbal issues into written format in order to try to resolve confusion about the nature of the issue. If the verbal complaint is clearly frivolous, we do not expect firms to offer assistance to put the complaint in writing. The firm may nonetheless ask the complainant to put the complaint in writing on his or her own.
Timeline for responding to complaints
• promptly send an initial written response to a complainant: we consider that an initial response should be provided to the complainant within five business days of receipt of the complaint
• provide a substantive response to all complaints relating to the matters listed under "Types of complaints" above, indicating the firm's decision on the complaint
A firm may also wish to use its initial response to seek clarification or additional information from the client.
Requirements for providing information about the availability of dispute resolution or mediation services paid for by the firm are discussed below.
We encourage firms to resolve complaints relating to the matters listed above within 90 days.
13.16 Dispute resolution service
Section 13.15 requires a registered firm to document and respond to each complaint made to it about any product or service that is offered by the firm or one of its representatives. Section 13.16 provides for recourse to an independent dispute resolution or mediation service at a registered firm's expense for specified complaints where the firm's internal complaint handling process has not produced a timely decision that is satisfactory to the client.
Registered firms may be required to make an independent dispute resolution or mediation service paid for by the firm available to a client in respect of a complaint that
• relates to a trading or advising activity of the firm or its representatives, and
• is raised within six years of the date when the client knew or reasonably ought to have known of the
trading or advising activityact or ommission that is a cause of or contributed to the complaint
As soon as possible after a client makes a complaint (for example, when sending its acknowledgment or initial response to the complaint), and again when the firm informs the client of its decision in respect of the complaint, a registered firm must provide a client with information about
• the firm's obligations under section 13.16,
• the steps the client must take for an independent dispute resolution or mediation service to be made available to the client at the firm's expense, and
• the name of the independent service that will be made available to the client (outside of Québec, this will normally be the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), as discussed below) and how to contact it
A client may escalate an eligible complaint to the independent dispute resolution or mediation service made available by the registered firm in two circumstances:
• If the firm fails to give the client notice of its decision within 90 days of receiving the complaint (telling the client that the firm plans to take more than 90 days to make its decision does not 'stop the clock'). The client is then entitled to escalate the complaint to the independent service immediately or at any later date until the firm has notified the client of its decision.
• If the firm has given the client notice of its decision about the complaint (whether it does so within 90 days or after a longer period) and the client is not satisfied with the decision, the client then has 180 days in which escalate the complaint to the independent service.
In either instance, the client may escalate the complaint by directly contacting the independent service.
We think that it may sometimes be appropriate for the independent service, the firm and the client involved in a complaint to agree to longer notice periods than the prescribed 90 and 180 day periods as a matter of fairness. We recognize that where a client does not cooperate with reasonable requests for information relating to a complaint, a firm may have difficulty making a timely decision in respect of the complaint. We expect that this would be relevant to any subsequent determination or recommendation made by an independent service about that complaint.
The client must agree that the amount of any recommendation by the independent service for monetary compensation will not exceed $350,000. This limit applies only to the amount that can be recommended. Until it is escalated to the independent service, a complaint made to a registered firm may include a claim for a larger amount.
Except in Québec, a registered firm must take reasonable steps to ensure that the dispute resolution and mediation service that is made available to its clients for these purposes will be OBSI. The reasonable steps we expect a firm to take include maintaining ongoing membership in OBSI as a "Participating Firm" and, with respect to each complaint, participating in the dispute resolution process in a manner consistent with the firm's obligation to deal fairly, honestly and in good faith with its client. This would include entering into consent agreements with clients contemplated under OBSI's procedures.
Since section 13.16 does not apply in respect of a complaint made by a permitted client that is not an individual, we would not expect a firm that only has clients of that kind to maintain membership in OBSI.
A registered firm should not make an alternative independent dispute resolution or mediation service available to a client at the same time as it makes OBSI available. Such a parallel offering would not be consistent with the requirement to take reasonable steps to ensure that OBSI will be the independent service that is made available to the client. Except in Québec, we expect that alternative service providers will only be used for purposes of section 13.16 in exceptional circumstances.
We would regard it as a serious compliance issue if a firm misrepresented OBSI's services or exerted pressure on a client to refuse OBSI's services.
If a client declines to make use of OBSI in respect of a complaint, or if a client abandons a complaint that is under consideration by OBSI, the registered firm is not obligated to provide another service at the firm's expense. A firm is only required to make one dispute resolution or mediation service available at its expense for each complaint.
Nothing in section 13.16 affects a client's right to choose to seek other recourse, including through the courts.
Registrants that are members of an SRO, including those that are registered in Québec, must also comply with their SRO's requirements with respect to the provision of independent dispute resolution or mediation services.
A registered firm must ensure that the complainant is aware of the dispute resolution or mediation services that are available to them and that the firm will pay for the services. Registered firms should know all applicable mechanisms and processes for dealing with different types of complaints, including those prescribed by the applicable SRO. In Québec, registrants must inform each complainant, in writing and without delay, that if the complainant is dissatisfied with how the complaint is handled or with the outcome, they may request the registrant to forward a copy of the complaint file to the Autorité des marchés financiers. The registrant must forward a copy of the complaint file to the Autorité des marchés financiers, which will examine the complaint. The Autorité des marchés financiers may act as a mediator if it considers it appropriate to do so and the parties agree.
Registrants who do business in other sectors
Some registrants are also registered or licensed to do business in other sectors, such as insurance. These registrants should inform their clients of the complaint mechanisms for each sector in which they do business and how to use them.